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Christmas Traditions in Spain
Christmas New Year Kings Day
The Three Kings; The Twelve Grapes
The essential guide to Christmas Entertainment in Spain.
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Christmas events in Spain. Christmas Traditions in Spain. December entertainment and traditions in Spain. What is a traditional Spanish Christmas in December in Spain.
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Christmas Traditions in Spain
Christmas New Year Kings Day
 Christmas, celebrated all over the country. Some towns have special rituals or processions, religious plays or people singing Christmas carols and asking for the "aguinaldo" (tip or small gift). The country's patron saint is the Virgin Mary and the Christmas season officially begins December 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception. In Seville it is celebrated each year in front of the cathedral with a fiesta called los Seises or the "dance of six." performed by   elaborately costumed boys with precise movements and gestures and is moving and beautiful.
 Christmas Eve is almost more important than Christmas Day - midnight mass included (called the Misa del Gallo or the "Rooster's Mass").  On Christmas Eve in Spain tiny oil lamps are lit in every house, and after Midnight Mass and Christmas Dinner, streets fill with dancers and onlookers. There is a special Christmas dance called the Jota and the words and music have been handed down for hundreds of years. They dance to the sound of guitars and castanets. Christmas Eve is known as Nochebuena or "the Good Night." It is a time for family members to gather together to rejoice and feast around the Nativity scenes that are present in nearly every home. A traditional Christmas treat is turron, a kind of almond candy.

December 28 is the feast of the Holy Innocents.  ( also the Spanish equivalent of  U.K. April Fools Day) . Young boys of a town or village light bonfires and one of them acts as the mayor who orders townspeople to perform civic chores such as sweeping the streets. Refusal to comply results in fines which are used to pay for the celebration.
 In the past, the traditional day for gifts was Epiphany or King's Day (Jan 6) but now that is giving way to Christmas, too, though often gifts are exchanged on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day.
Another difference is that in Spain the Christmas tree is not traditional but an import: here the traditional symbol is a Nativity scene, often very elaborate with scenes from everyday life (chestnut sellers, shopkeepers, blacksmiths). If you are in Spain before Christmas, be sure to see the Nativity (usually called "Belen", Bethlehem in Spanish) at the towns you visit - if the town is biggish, they probably have a town "Belen" and some in shop windows, too.
New Year's is celebrated with parties like other places in the world, though in Spain you should eat twelve grapes on the twelve strokes of midnight to ensure good luck in the new year. This can be done if you are fast, neat and don't start laughing at your friends with chipmunk-cheeks full of grapes. It helps to hold your stash of grapes right next to your mouth.
King's day, January 6, the traditional day for putting gifts in children's shoes, and the end of the extended holiday season in Spain. This day is celebrated in a number of towns with King's Day celebrations: Cañada (Alicante), Caudete (Albacete), Pamplona, Sanguesa (Navarra), sometimes with religious theatre or traditional dances

Christmas in Spain: tradition and fun

 Throughout December the streets of cities, towns and villages are decked with colour, lights and Christmas decorations, creating a magical atmosphere. Amongst all the celebrations there are two special ones not to be missed: the New Year's Eve fiesta and the Feast of the Three Kings.
On the night of New year's eve, called "Nochevieja" in Spanish, everyone in Spain fulfils a special tradition: they eat twelve grapes, one by one, keeping time with the clock as it strikes midnight.  If you manage to eat all the grapes in time, you are in for a year of prosperity and good luck.
Although the chiming of the bells is broadcast on live television throughout Spain, the best thing is to head for the scene of the local celebration and take active part in the event. In Spain there is a place that has a special link with this tradition: the clock in Puerta del Sol Square in Madrid. Thousands of people congregate here to see in the year, people dressed up with hats, party blowers, horns, masks and jokes.
The magic of the Three Wise Men
Just six days later comes the most magical moment of the year, especially for the little ones.
On 6 January they get their presents from the Three Wise Men. In Spain it is Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar who bring Christmas presents to children who have been good during the year. After writing a letter, in which they tell the Kings which presents they would like, the long-awaited day finally arrives. The Wise Men parade through the streets of cities, towns and villages all over Spain in traditional cavalcades. Their camels loaded with presents, they go through the streets handing out sweets, accompanied by their royal pages. Little by little the colourful floats go by, entertaining all the family. Of all these parades, the one in Alcoi, Alicante, is particularly outstanding - it is Spain's oldest. When night falls, children go to bed early to wait for Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar to come in through the window and leave presents in their shoes.

Try the traditional sweets to be found at this time of year. There is a huge variety available, although the star product is definitely turrón. Another of the most traditional Christmas sweets in Spain is marzipan, which is made with almonds and sugar and can usually be found in the form of "little shapes".

"Feliz Navidad"
In Spain, the Christmas holiday season is full of the usual Christmas festivities, but there is one tradition, not at all common elsewhere. Named "Hogueras" (bonfires), this tradition originated long before Christmas itself. It is the observance of the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year and the beginning of winter. It is characterized by people jumping over fires as a symbolic protection against illness. This fire-jumping can be seen primarily in Granada and Jaen.

The more common traditions include incredibly elaborate "Nacimiento" (nativity scenes), Christmas trees, and remarkable Christmas markets scattered among villages and cities with piles of fruits, flowers, marzipan and other sweets, candles, decorations and hand-made Christmas gifts. Often, as the Christmas Eve stars appear in the heavens, tiny oil lamps are lighted, warming village windows.
 The Christmas Eve gaiety is interrupted at midnight be the ringing of bells calling the families to "La Misa Del Gallo" (The Mass of the Rooster). The most beautiful of these candlelight services is held at the monastery of Montserrat, high in the mountain near Barcelona, which is highlighted by a boy's choir describes as performing the Mass in "one pure voice."

Christmas dinner is never eaten until after midnight. It is a family feast, and often highlighted with "Pavo Trufado de Navidad" (Christmas turkey with truffles; truffles are a mushroom-like delicacy found underground). After the meal, family members gather around the Christmas tree and sing Christmas carols and hymns of Christendom.
The rejoicing continues through the wee hours of the morning. An old Spanish verse says...
"Esta noche es Noche-Buena, Y no es noche de dormir"
(This is the goodnight, therefore it is not meant for sleep.)

Christmas Day is spent at church, at feasts and in more merry-making. A custom peculiar to Spain is that of "swinging." Swings are set up throughout the courtyards and young people swing to the accompaniment of traditional songs.

In Spain it is not Santa who comes bearing gifts, but the Three Wise Men. The Spanish Christmas continues for a few weeks after Dec. 25th. On the Eve of Epiphany, January 5th, children place their shoes on the doorstep, and in the secret of the night, the Three Wise Men pass leaving gifts. January 6th, Epiphany is heralded with parades in various cities where candy and cakes are distributed to throngs of children.

Pavo Trufado de Navidad (Christmas Turkey with Truffles)
1 turkey of 4 kg.
½ kg. minced lean pork
1 kg. minced veal
Salt and ground black pepper
1 glass of brandy
1 large glass of dry oloroso sherry
3 tins (of 90g) truffles (mushrooms)
150 g "jamon serrano"
200 g belly of pork in rashers
6 eggs
For garnish...
Apple puree, Plums, Pineapple, oranges and maraschino cherries
For the stock..
Carcass and giblets of the turkey
½ kg carrots
½ kg leeks
½ kg onions
1 stick of celery
1 bottle of dry sherry
2 ham bones
36 g gelatin
Place the turkey upside down, cut the skin along the backbone, and using the fingers, ease away the skin in one piece, first on one side of the backbone and then on the other. It is elastic and should come away easily.
Keep the breasts apart, making fillets of the thickest parts and cutting into strips. Remove the meat from the legs and wings, etc., and mince it with the pork and veal, putting it all into a bowl. Season with salt and ground black pepper, sprinkle with the brandy and sherry, add the chopped truffles and their juice, and the ham and belly of pork in strips. Leave to marinate for 4 hours, together with the beaten eggs.
Remove the sliced truffles and the strips of ham and belly of pork, and reserve. Then knead together the filling thoroughly by hand.
Now spread out the skin of the turkey on the working surface and lay the fillets on top like the pages of a book. Cover the breasts with a layer of the minced meat and then with one of ham and belly of pork strips, breasts and slices of truffle, repeating the operation until the ingredients are used up. Using a stout needle, sew together the edges of the skin and also the holes made by the wings and legs.
Place the sew-up skin with its filling on a white napkin, roll it around and sew with large stitches, then tie it into a roll with uncolored string.
Put the roll into a large saucepan, together with the cut up carcass and cut up vegetables and pour over this the bottle of dry sherry. Add the ham bones, the gelatin and a few egg shells. Cover with 3 liters of cold water and boil briskly for 3 hours (1 ½ hours each side), seasoning with salt and ground pepper. Make sure that it is evenly cooked, then remove the roll and leave it on a dish to drain and cool.
Remove the cloth in which it is wrapped, wring out the juice into the cooking liquid, rinse out the cloth and again wrap up the roll without sewing. Put it on a dish, place a chopping board on top, and on top of this a weight of 3 or 4 kg. Press for 12 hours and then put into the refrigerator.
Boil the cooking liquid without a lid, reducing it to 1 liter if converting it into a jelly. If strained, this makes a magnificent soup or consomme. If required thicker, add three or four leave of gelatin. Cut the roll into slices 1 cm. thick. Serve with puree of apples and plums and decorate with slices of fresh pineapples and orange and with maraschino cherries.
8 egg yolks
A few drops of vanilla essence
1 pint milk
2 tbls. syrup
4 oz. sugar
Heat 3 tbls. sugar with ½ tbls. water until it is of a brown caramel consistency. Pour into an oven-proof dish or little individual dishes, which have previously been dipped into cold water and not dried (this prevents sticking). Make a custard by beating the yolks well, adding the milk and flavoring and pour into the caramel-lined dish or dishes and bake for about 20 minutes. Cool, turn out and keep in cool place until served


Spanish Christmas
Christmas in Spain is celebrated differently to the way it is celebrated in Britain and from around the 18th of December, all of the festivities begin. Music plays a large part in the Christmas celebrations and the type of music played can vary between different regions of Spain meaning that you may hear performances of classical music as well as the traditional flamenco music of Spain.

Christmas Eve is often celebrated more vigorously than Christmas Day in Spain and the whole family normally meet at the home of their Grandparents where everyone contributes to the huge feast that is to be served. The meal is eaten late in the evening and then carols are sung around a nativity scene, which is set up in every home (without a baby Jesus until midnight when the child is added to the scene). At midnight, some families go to midnight-mass at a local church and continue with the carol singing while some families watch Christmas television programmes and drink Cava.

On Christmas Day, another huge feast for family and friends is prepared and normally eaten at around midday. Every Spaniard enjoys Christmas particularly as they have such an enormous range of excellent food and wine to choose from. Although some presents are exchanged on Christmas Day, the majority of celebrations and the exchanging of gifts is kept until Epiphany (the twelfth day), which takes place on the 6th of January and is thought to be the day on which 'The Kings' arrived bearing gifts for the baby Jesus.

New Years Eve is normally either celebrated at home with friends and family or out and about in the town where locals gather to hear the bells ringing at midnight. As in England, younger people tend to celebrate at parties held in restaurants or nightclubs with their friends.

On the 'Eve of The Kings', a parade takes place in each town centre where locals dressed as kings walk through the towns, throwing sweets and gifts to the children watching. The Kings (Los Reyes), are the highlight of each child's Christmas and they write a gift list to 'The Kings' rather than Father Christmas, leaving food and drink out for them to enjoy while delivering the children's presents. Presents are left out later this night for the excited children to open the following morning.

Noche Buena and Navidad:
It is quite normal to spend this night with your loved ones (some people get together on the 26th, El Día de San Esteban--St. Steven's' Day). And it is normal to make it a feast, with a traditional recipe (this one basically changes according to the family), eating turrón (nougat), and singing villancicos (Christmas carols).  Spain is a traditionally Catholic nation, and  many families attend evening mass on the 24th.
Noche Vieja:
Well, this is a celebration with freedom; some spend it out in bars, restaurants, clubs, and other places where they meet with friends; others just spend the celebration with the family.
 But, there are to things that are typical of this celebration, and one of them is as Spanish as Spain itself.
The first one is the celebration of the New Year with cava. (Spanish champagne)
The second is the celebration of the 12 gongs at 12:00 am of the 1st. Of January with the eating of the twelve grapes.
The idea behind it is that if you are able to eat all twelve in twelve seconds, you will have a prosperous new year.
 Today, however, La Puerta del Sol in Madrid rules on that day! There is a clock on top the La Puerta, and when the twelve sound.
Before the twelve official gongs, there are the cuartos, four gongs of a higher pitch that announce and prepare you for the twelve. Many people confuse them with the actual twelve.
El Día de Reyes:
King's Day is an exciting day in Spain with families, little children, and stores all over Spain as people do the last minute shopping.
  Also, bakeries prepare coal, blackened/grayish sugar lumps that look very much like coal, which is given to children, more as a joke than anything else.

 Nougat is popular at Christmas. There are many kinds of nougat or turrón. The typical are Jijona (beige coloured made with almonds, honey, etc.), Alicante (this is the hard nougat) and Yema (traditionally made with egg and much like marzipan with browned sugar on top). However now there are many kinds of nougat: marzipan, marzipan with fruits, chocolate, chocolate/truffle , chocolate/truffle and liquors,

Christmas carols vary a lot in Spain. Being that there are four major cultural groups, each has its own traditional carols; the only thing that it is maintain through is the theme of the manger. Most homes have a manger scene set up by the somewhere visible in the house. These manger scenes are complete with towns, buildings and towns people; sheep, shepherds and angles; travelling men and women; animals (chickens, cows, horses, donkeys, etc..); and of course the 3 kings with their entourage. The scenes are finished with grass or moss, a river and a bridge, sand, earth, and any other ideas you may think of! In many homes, the kings and their entourage is advanced a little closer to the manger as the days go by, until the 5th of January, when the kings arrive to the manger and deliver their gifts.
Christmas Traditions in Spain
Misa de Gallo
One of the most important religious events of the year. Catholic Spain celebrates the birth of Christ with midnight masses throughout the country on Christmas Eve.

Villaralto Christmas Tradition
"se canta ó se reza?"
Children visit houses during the Christmas period and when the door is answered ask the question "Song or Prayer?"
"se canta ó se reza?"
They then sing either a Christmas song or a Christmas prayer.
They will be rewarded with a Christmas gift


Christmas In Spain

As in many European countries, the children of Spain receive gifts on the feast of the Epiphany from the Three Kings. These events are just the most fun in Spain often the whole village gather together in the square as the children are called up one by to receive their gifts from The Three Kings. The Magi are particularly revered in Spain. It is believed that they travel through the countryside re-enacting their journey to Bethlehem every year at this time. Children leave their shoes on the windowsills and fill them with straw, carrots, and barley for the horses of the Wise Men. Their favourite is Balthazar who rides a donkey and is the one believed to leave the gifts.

There are three major dates that are celebrated around Christmas in Spain. The first is Nochebuena or Christmas Eve. Traditionally, the whole family will get together for a meal. The children will receive a small gift and the adults will exchange presents. Most families will go to mass at midnight, though some stay at home and raise a drink to the birth of Christ instead.

Christmas Day is a fiesta day. All the shops and banks are closed. This is the sort of day when everyone will spend time with their family in quiet celebration.

Los Reyes, Three Kings Day, celebrates the arrival of the three kings in Bethlehem. Traditionally, they do not have Father Christmas in Spain and the three kings deliver the presents instead. Therefore, 6 January is the day on which the children receive their gifts. They even write to the three kings with requests. In Moraira, Alicante,  Spain the Kings have been known to arrive on the beach by air balloon; the three kings then walk over the beach to the their carriages there then follows a procession through the town whilst sweets are thrown to the children. All across Spain similar ceremonies, a big procession on the night of 5 January, in which floats travel through the town throwing out sweets and goodies to the children.

Most homes have a manger, like cathedrals and churches. These are complete with carved figures. Children think of the Three Wise Man as the gift bearers. Tradition has it that they arrive on January 6th, the date the Wise Men gave gifts to Jesus. The Spanish especially honour the cow at Christmas because it is thought that when Mary gave birth to Jesus the cow in the stable breathed on the Baby Jesus to keep him warm.

Shoes are filled with straw or barley for the tired camels that must carry their riders through the busy night. By morning the camel food is gone and in place of the straw or barley or presents. Shoes also may be placed on balconies on the night of the 6th January in the hope that the Wise Men will fill them with gifts.

Christmas Eve is known as Nochebuena or "the Good Night." It is a time for family members to gather together to rejoice and feast around the Nativity scenes that are present in nearly every home. A traditional Christmas treat is turron, a kind of almond candy.

Ice skating at Christmas

During the Christmas period, Madrid fills up with lights, markets, Nativity scenes, huge decorated trees and an increasing number of temporary ice skating rinks set up in the city's main squares inviting everyone to enjoy this winter sport. Plaza del Callao and Santa María Soledad Torres Acosta are the most central spots for enjoying this sport during the yuletide season.

Ice skating, one of the most popular activities in the world once the cold weather sets in, can be enjoyed with the whole family or in the company of friends, and is suitable for children over seven. The skates are included in the price of the ticket so all you need to do now is find the rink nearest to you:
Plaza de Santa María Soledad Torres Acosta.Located in the area of Triball, this square not only has a Christmas market selling presents and mountain clothes but also a rink and an annexed slope for sledgesl.

Plaza de Callao. This pedestrian square holds a rink that is free of charge and open exclusive to children from 4 to 12. You will find it next to the 20-metre tree which dons a metre high glass star, created by the La Granja Royal Glass Factory.






Eating 12 Grapes on New Year's Eve in Spain
The Twelve Grapes to the chimes of the clock at midnight on New Years Eve has been a Spanish tradition since 1909. In December that year, some  vine growers from the Alicante area came up with "The 12 Grapes" as an idea to sell huge amounts of grapes from an excellent harvest.

December Entertainment & Events in Spain

Christmas Events & Entertainment in Spain





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